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Not Another Brown
Jewelry Store

Owners didn't want their Nevada store to look like everyone else's.

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BVW Jewelers, Reno, NV

URL: bvwjewelers.com; OWNER: Britten & Michelle Wolf; FOUNDED: 2000; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2013; SHOWCASES: Victory Woodworks of Reno, NV; AREA: 1,770 square feet; COST OF BUILDOUT: $156,000; EMPLOYEES: 3; TOP BRANDS: BVW Designs, Daniel Vior, David Tishbi, Sarda, Kelim Jewelry, Chaizzma, Fanna, Heavy Stone, Linton Ltd.; TAGLINE: raordinary, Never Ordinary; YELP RATING: 5 Stars and Google; GOOGLE: 5 Stars; FACEBOOK: 123 likes; ALEXA GLOBAL RANK: 3,424,437


BRITTEN AND MICHELLE WOLF know that just being themselves is the way to go in the retail jewelry world. They work too hard, they say, to try to be something they’re not.

That means no dress code.

“Some people consider us edgy,” Britten Wolf says. “But if I want to wear flip-flops and listen to The Offspring and serve alcohol, I’m going to, if I’m here working long hours, six days a week!”

He also wanted the design of the store to express a non-traditional vibe.

That means no brown.

“I’m tired of brown jewelry stores,” Wolf says. “I wasn’t going to have brown wood with brown carpet. I just couldn’t do it. But we had to have an architect, and architects can be adamant about what they want to see. We had to tell him, ‘No brown! No brown!’ We just told him what we wanted and tried to convince him.”

Instead, the extra tall, multi-functional cases are finished in an oiled bronze color and can double as a bar during events, allowing customers to gaze down at jewelry as they sip their cocktails. Through the glass cases, the deep aqua stained concrete floors below give the impression both case and customer are floating on water.

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“Nine out of 10 customers who come in are blown away,” Wolf says, by the distinctive look.

The Wolfs find themselves among like-minded retailers, since their store is in an eclectic shopping center in South Reno, where every store is a small, locally owned business with a distinct personality, including popular restaurants and a wine shop. “We felt this was a part of town that wasn’t being served with art and jewelry,” Wolf says.

The setting is beautiful in itself, with mountain landscapes, vivid sunsets and a pasture of cows across the street.

Besides banishing brown, Wolf wanted the store to also serve as an art gallery. Hanging the work of local artists ensures that “the scenery always changes,” as new work is rotated in every three months.

“Hosting art shows is a great way to get people in to see jewelry that sometimes normally wouldn’t. The art scene here is very strong, and if people come into the store, they can see that jewelry is art, that it has different designs, colors and looks,” Wolf says. “You open yourself up to business and revenue and friends you normally wouldn’t get with standard advertising.”

The wall space is curved to facilitate traffic flow and the cases are octagonal, creating geometric contrasts. Wolf had wanted to have curved glass cases made, until he learned how crazy expensive that would be.

The artful traffic pattern makes the space feel expansive.

“I’m amazed how big it seems for 1,800 square feet,” Wolf says. “We wanted it to have enough of a footprint that it would not be a little kiosk, but not so big that I had to worry about filling it with inventory.”

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At least 80 percent of the business is custom design rather than straight out of the case. “That’s what we geared the business for. What we have under our glass is considered pretty minimal.” A Small Business Administration loan helped him get things going, inventory-wise.

What inventory there is has got to be unique. “A lot of the inventory we carry other stores in the area don’t,” Wolf says. “We’re very adamant about that. Not the same old colors and flavors.”

Wolf started out in the industry at age 16, working with his family in Albuquerque, before he got an apprenticeship as a bench jeweler in Reno with Robert Ince, his mentor.

Later, he worked in his own studio as a bench jeweler.

“It got kind of dull,” he says. “I got out of my studio to open my store so I could work with other people’s designs and make jewelry into art, rather than just having my own vision.”

So in 2013, he and Michelle opened the retail store.

Wolf is a people person, so the return to retail wasn’t a problem. Still, when he’s busy at the bench or in his role as designer, sometimes he wishes he could be invisible.

“It would be nice, because even having my wife and daughter Jasmine working here, customers feel they have to talk with me personally for whatever reason. It took a couple months to get into the rhythm of working with the public again.”

PHOTO GALLERY (10 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About BVW Jewelers

1. SPEEDY CUSTOM.  BVW has two CAD programs for custom design and a 3-D printer, so everything is done in the store by Wolf, speeding up the process and allowing clients to see exactly what they are getting. Clients also appreciate the fact their custom jewelry or repairs never leave the premises.

2. ADVERTISING VEHICLE.  They bought a 1952 GMC pickup that has the store’s logo on it and use it to attract attention. “We keep a stack of business cards in it, and pass them out like candy,” Wolf says. “Wherever we drive it people follow; it’s a great conversation starter and quite often, we see them in the store at a later date.” They also plan to enter the truck in Hot August Nights, the region’s largest special event, which brings in over 6,000 registered classic cars and attracts more than 100,000 attendees.

3. BIRD WATCHERS.  Wolf loves birds, and since his shop has a 7-by-10 foot window with a view of trees and foliage, bird feeders and birdhouses were a must. The informal aviary has attracted a variety of birds and even hawks that perch and look in the windows. Customers ask about the hawks by name; there’s often a crowd in the shop watching what “Dexter” will do next.

4. JUMP START AN ARTIST. BVW launched the “Jump Start an Artist” program, which helps up and coming jewelry designers have their jewelry designs manufactured, packaged, advertised and sold. Wolf wants to identify and encourage jewelry designers, particularly because they are hard to find in the Reno area.

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5. NEW MEDIA.  “Jewelry is visual and so I’ve never thought radio would be that good. And TV is expensive,” Wolf says. Instead, he targets online, mobile, SEO and Web advertising using Google AdWords. Wolf works with creativeunderpressure.com to track everything. “With analytics we can see exactly where we need to transfer advertising money.”

Try This: Sidewalk Hawking

“We have a chalkboard in front of our store that we write quirky and fun jewelry related quotes on. Every day people pop in just to tell us that our sign made them laugh. We love having the door open and hearing them laugh as they stroll by.”

 

JUDGES’ COMMENTS
  • Jesse Balaity:  BVW has a down-to-earth feel, with an edgy vibe conveyed in certain interior finishes and artwork. The store design parallels some of the trends we see in fast casual dining, strategically using inexpensive materials coupled with bold graphics to create a comprehensive lifestyle environment.
  • Barbara Palumbo:  They had me at “antique pickup truck.” The charity tie-in is fantastic, the website is clean and easy to use, and the support of local artists is cool.
  • Pratima Sethi:  Their use of 3-D printing and providing the customer with a takeaway is a great way to use technology.
  • Bryan Eisenberg:  I like the way they think about the space for events and how the interior is designed for showcase and bar space.
  • Sally Furrer:  Bar-height showcases are brilliant, as is the view of their hawk aviary. The floor creates an interesting blue glow to the interior. Website has beautiful images and the custom section is particularly strong. Also, like the live chat. The chalkboard with quotes is such a cute way to engage passersby.

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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